Considering Cultural Difference in the Impact of Social Media Use

This class has begged the question of the usefulness of social media in social movements and revolutions. While it is apparent that the answer varies greatly depending upon whom and what is being moved upon, we tend to gauge social media’s usefulness based on the lens of the dominant political culture in the U.S. Such a view can lead to narrow thinking and engagement with analyzing the usefulness of social media for other cultures within and outside of the United States.

I have often argued the minority opinion that Twitter can indeed be and has been useful. For starters, it is not only useful in the Middle East and North Africa, but also across different cultures in the United States. What must be evaluated and pondered is the accessibility, reach and need for social media in different cultures and their movements. The tactical measures that Karpf argues do not necessarily lead to strategic action are not necessarily true. Oppressed groups in search and need of an avenue to share can surely find it by way of sharing information and ideas. This virtual space is, in fact, extremely useful for such groups, especially those who have the urgency but lack the spaces to meet and organize themselves regularly and/or publicly.

I would argue that while revolutionary movement can be called for through sharing pressing information online, the revolutions do not begin online. The impetus for revolution is rooted in situations that call for them—not talking online. The coverage, sharing and discussions that occur on social media have only revolutionized how these revolutions will form and navigate discussion. The sharing of ideas far and wide by way of the internet definitely has had a useful impact that reach beyond the tactical measures this class seems a bit hung up on. The use of social media allowed the Arab Spring to take shape in a new and innovative way that previous uprisings had not. Through social media, the people who were inclined to begin and participate in the revolution were able to provide information that pushed for movement on the streets. Tufeki and Wilson found that social media use increased the odds that a respondent attended protests (363).


Does the urgency of situations have an effect on how useful social media can be in social movements?

Has the Arab Spring reading changed your opinion or views of social media? If so, how?

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5 Responses to Considering Cultural Difference in the Impact of Social Media Use

  1. coxmarg says:

    Great post! I definitely think that my opinion has changed since last week about the role social media can play in revolutions. I don’t know if necessarily the urgency plays a role in whether social media is effective, but I definitely think citizens’ grievances need to be great enough to cause a large amount of people to take action.

  2. zkanters says:

    I agree with the comment above. I believe the bigger the grievances (the more urgency in a situation) really has an effect on social movements. This can be seen in Egypt. The man that set himself on fire was the resource, and social networking reached just enough people in different groups in order to create a wide awareness of the issue and riot going on at the time. The Arab Spring reading changed my opinion because of this fact. While we may not always be the most active community, we certainly do gossip. If the right people are online, the news will spread, and if the grievances are big enough, there is sure to be a response.

  3. alemor7 says:

    I agree with the comments above in that the reading shifted my opinion. I don’t however think it is clear cut black and white, that social media either is not at all effective or a resource that used alone can directly lead to social revolutions. This reading creates a middle ground where social media can be utilized to facilitate social protests and revolutions through its ability to communicate with a large number of people simultaneously and instantaneously, however there are several other necessary driving factors that have to be present in accordance with social media use in order for the protests to occur. Given the right environment and surrounding factors, social media can play a role within a social revolution, but I don’t think social media alone and bring about meaningful social revolutions that create change.

  4. macariav says:

    I think that the urgency of an issue can absolutely effect how successful social media is. Social media is a real time feature that relies on people viewing what is most recent. What pops up on their feeds near the top in what the give the most attention to. It is because of this that I feel social media is most useful in important and recent situation. I agree with the other comments as well. This reading did in fact change my opinion. There is no clear cut situation on social media success in every situation. Every user, country, and situation is different. What might be successful for one circumstance might not be for another.

  5. sheypat says:

    I think the urgency of a situation can greatly effect how successful or unsuccessful social media is. How effective any movement is depends on how important it is for people to act on it. If people think that a certain issue is important to act on immediately, social media is good place to go to get a movement started. Social media is very immediate–it is easy to post statuses, tweets, videos, etc. at a fast pace in real time. When people decide something is important enough to act on immediately, they turn to social media. That is why things of urgency definitely factor in how successful social media is at creating a change. If something is not of importance, or urgent, people can use other mediums to discuss it at a later time.

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